Bengals have talent and home advantage, and a good chance of losing to Ravens

  • Ravens linebacker Elvis Dumervil sacks Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton in the first meeting between the teams in November.
Ravens linebacker Elvis Dumervil sacks Bengals quarterback… (Rob Carr, Getty Images )
December 26, 2013|Mike Preston

As long as the Bengals reside in Cincinnati, there is always hope the Ravens will win. And if the Ravens can't find a way to win, the Bengals might find a way to lose.

That's why there shouldn't be any gloom in Baltimore as the Ravens head to Cincinnati on Sunday. The Bengals could become the Bungles again.

Forget about the San Diego Chargers and the Miami Dolphins. Those games are out of the Ravens' control, but the Ravens have a very realistic shot at beating Cincinnati.

The Bengals home record of 7-0 this season is impressive, and they have outscored opponents 241-107 at Paul Brown Stadium. But they have an erratic quarterback in Andy Dalton, and offensive coordinator Jay Gruden's passing game hasn't been that overwhelming, either.

Dalton has good numbers: 342 completions in 550 attempts for 4,015 yards and 31 touchdowns. But he also has 16 interceptions.

As the Bengals routed the Minnesota Vikings, 42-14, on Sunday, you got the impression that Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis is hesitant about opening up the offense with Dalton because he has to first gauge whether Dalton is hot or cold.

The Bengals have as much talent as any other team in the NFL, but they are stuck in that West Coast mentality of throwing short passes. It didn't work against the Ravens earlier this season, and it won't work Sunday.

A few weeks ago, when the Bengals were blown out by the Pittsburgh Steelers, they seldom challenged the Steelers vertically down the field, which is the way every team attacks the Steelers' secondary.

That why I like the Ravens' chances Sunday. The Bengals don't have that killer instinct. The Ravens won't play as poorly as they did against the New England Patriots last Sunday. They can't, because they have too much pride and too much at stake. When you combine that with Dalton, Gruden, the lack of killer instinct and the chance of the Bengals becoming the Bungles, there could be an upset.

Beating the best

Early in the career of Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, there was always a concern that Flacco wouldn't become a good quarterback until he could beat the elite ones, such as Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees.

Flacco has gotten better, but the Ravens are back to that point again. Manning ran a clinic on the Ravens in a Denver rout in the season opener, and Brady won big here Sunday. The Ravens didn't have Brees on the schedule, but they did have Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers, whose Packers also beat the Ravens.

In all of those games, the Ravens secondary looked unorganized at times. After each loss, the word "miscommunication" kept popping up.

Let's hope that term doesn't reappear Sunday around 5 p.m. in the Ravens locker room.

Pats silenced Pitta

Ravens coach John Harbaugh pointed out Monday that tight end Dennis Pitta was getting roughed up by the Patriots inside the red zone.

Harbaugh was being nice.

There were times when Pitta was getting mugged or having his jersey pulled. You could predict it was coming.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick is always going to take out what he considers the No. 1 weapon on the opposing offense. It wasn't going to be Flacco or running back Ray Rice. It wasn't going to be receiver Torrey Smith, considering the way he has been struggling lately.

It was going to be Pitta, Flacco's security blanket. Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome should have known better, having worked with Belichick in Cleveland.

Tricky Rex

I can't wait to see what trick New York Jets coach Rex Ryan comes up with Sunday to motivate his team.

According to reports, Ryan, a former Ravens defensive coordinator, told his team at a meeting the night before Sunday's game that word on the street he was being fired.

It sounds cheap, but don't think for a minute Ryan wouldn't use this ploy.

But he'll have to come up with a whopper this Sunday to top last week's.

Time for a No. 2 QB

Flacco hasn't missed a game in his six seasons, but he has taken a beating this season with this offensive line.

The Ravens might need to address their No. 2 quarterback situation in the offseason. Tyrod Taylor came into a tough situation in the closing minutes against New England, but you still have to wonder whether he can be efficient running the offense if Flacco is out for a substantial amont of time.

Then again, Flacco might not have had a bum knee and several other ailments if he could run like Taylor.

Charging to victory

The Ravens could benefit if the Chargers lose Sunday, but that isn't going to happen with their opponent, the Kansas City Chiefs, having clinched the No. 5 playoff seed.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid knows his team can't do any better than the current seed, so he said he will mix and match starters. It wouldn't have made a difference, because San Diego might be the surprise team in the playoffs. The Chargers got everyone's attention Dec. 12 when they beat the Broncos in Denver, 27-20.

The Chargers have now won three straight and might be at the point where quarterback Philip Rivers can't screw this up.

Did the Ravens give up?

A lot of fans suggested the Ravens quit on Sunday against New England, but that's hard to believe. It just seemed that they weren't prepared for the intensity, and the Ravens also had nine penalties for 83 yards.

That's usually the sign of a lack of discipline, and those kinds of things show up late in the season when a team has given up. If it happens again Sunday, it's a poor indication of where the team is headed in the future.

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